What are the basic characteristics of third-person and first-person narratives?

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In a narrative in the third person, we generally expect the story to unfold through the eyes of a narrator who is not directly involved in the events. The narrator acts almost like a fly on the wall who sees all and can tell us what happened. We are informed of events and even thoughts and feelings by the external, third-person story teller. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines this as,

In third-person narration, the narrator exists outside the events of the story, and relates the actions of the characters by referring to their names or by the third-person pronouns he, she, or they.

In certain narratives where the third-person narrator is “omniscient,” we are given to understand the thoughts, feelings and actions of most of the characters involved in the narrative. In this way, even if the protagonist does not know what other characters are thinking or doing, the third-person narrator can inform the reader of the actions and thoughts of the other characters involved in the tale.

Conversely, in a narrative in the first person, we generally expect the story to unfold through the eyes and bias of the narrator and we get that narrator’s point of view of the events unfolding around him or her. In most cases, the first-person narrator has limited knowledge of anything other than the story he or she conveys. In other words, the narrator can relate the feelings he or she has or had at the time of the events, but has no more knowledge of the feelings or actions of others unless they choose to share their thoughts, feelings and actions with the narrator.

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